Children who lose their tonsils are not doomed to obesity in adulthood

Science and Health

Tonsillectomy performed on children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) does not increase the risk of obesity in adulthood, according to a new study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka- University Medical Center in Beersheba. 

OSA, in which the person stops breathing momentarily but many times while sleeping affects about six percent of children and is linked with behavioral and learning difficulties. Tonsil surgery is the primary treatment for OSA, but the medical literature and affected families have been worried that the children would gain weight and be at risk for obesity in adulthood.  

A new study by Prof. Aviv Goldbart, Prof. Ariel Tarasiuk, and Dr. Ran Abuhasira at BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and investigated the effects of childhood tonsillectomy on body weight in adulthood. 

An Afghan doctor checks a patient’s tonsils at a medical clinic in Sarobi district, Kabul province, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2013. Medics with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan visited the clinic as part of a medical outreach program. (credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Study finds no increased risk of obesity

Their research, which was published yesterday in the prestigious journal American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, under the title “Childhood Adenotonsillectomy Does Not Increase the Risk of Being Overweight in Adulthood” discovered in 132 children whose tonsils were removed, with a control of 127 whose parents chose not to have the surgery performed, did not increase the risk of obesity when they reached adulthood. 

All families were recommended tonsillectomies for their children, but those who declined reported insufficient awareness of the benefits of surgery and declined the treatment.